Six Nations: Ireland's Bundee Aki on the benefits of a loud on-field persona

Bundee Aki
Aki has made 26 international appearances since his debut in November 2017

Ireland's Bundee Aki believes his vocal on-field persona is now more necessary than ever, given the lack of supporters inside stadiums.

Since rugby returned in late August, centre Aki's constant communication has become a notable feature of games being played behind closed doors.

"If you ask anybody in a team that I've been with, I'm a loud person," he said.

"I get on people's nerves at times even though I'm just trying to have a laugh."

Aki added: "We want crowds out there to bring the noise... but at the moment we need to be able as a team to create our own energy and create our own atmosphere, be able to feed off each other.

"If I can do that through my actions then that's a bonus."

Having impressed since the restart, Aki is in line to make his 27th Ireland appearance on Saturday when they return to Six Nations action against Italy.

Ireland are fourth in the table but would go top with a bonus-point win in Dublin.

Connacht's Aki is known to be a vocal presence on the field, something which has been picked up more in recent months as his voice can be heard booming around empty stadiums on television.

In a recent Pro14 game against Glasgow, the referee's microphone picked up an exchange between Aki and Scotland back row Ryan Wilson, a conversation that Aki said occurs frequently as he tries to throw opponents of their game.

Bundee Aki
Aki has been a key player for Connacht since arriving in 2014

"Obviously it catches surprise from other teams as they haven't seen me do it, and if it catches you by surprise then that might be a slight advantage for us but who knows?" he said.

"If I do get under their skin then cool, that's a slight win for us. If I don't then I've just got to lead by my actions and follow through.

"I do it at training, I do it through the week.

"My team-mates at Connacht are well used to my loud voice, well used to me screaming at them."

'Centre competition makes us better'

Since making his debut in 2017, Aki has become a fixture of Ireland's midfield, an area viewed as one of the country's biggest strengths.

The fitness of Robbie Henshaw, whose recent seasons have been plagued by injury, and the continuing impressive provincial form of Stuart McCloskey and Chris Farrell, means competition for the starting jersey at inside centre is considerable, with Garry Ringrose the clear first choice at 13.

Aki and Ringrose
The majority of Aki's Ireland starts have come with Garry Ringrose beside him in midfield

"It's been very challenging, it's been competitive which is very good for us," said Aki of a week that has seen all five centres fully fit and training together.

"Having all five of the top centres in the country fit and healthy, ready to rock and roll, it gives that competitive edge.

"It makes us better as a group, tighter as a group to get better and be able to share our strengths and our weaknesses together."

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